Chris Packham’s new group is taking on the government and there’s massive public support

A jay (bird) and Chris Packham
Support us and go ad-free

Wild Justice’s first fundraiser has almost reached its target less than a week after launch. And it shows just how concerned the public is about the treatment of England’s birds.

Casual killing

Wild Justice launched its crowdfunder to challenge “the casual killing of birds” in court on 15 March. It asked for £36,000 towards the cost of a judicial review of Natural England’s (NE) general licences. Wild Justice says these licences permit the “largely unregulated” killing of millions of wild birds.

As the Guardian reported, shooters and trappers can kill species including jays, Canada geese, and non-native parakeets and don’t need to offer non-lethal alternatives. They can legally justify their actions with reasons including crop damage and safety risk to humans. James Diamond, NE director of operations, told the Guardian that general licence applications “are carefully considered… and are only granted when all other measures have been explored”.

But Wild Justice is taking the general licence to task in its first project since the group launched on 12 February. Chris Packham, former RSPB conservation director Mark Avery, and Ruth Tingay – founder of influential blog Raptor Persecution UK – head up Wild Justice. And it believes that the current licensing system is “unlawful” because it puts the choice of method for tackling problems with birds “in the hands of the general licence user.”

As a result, Wild Justice said it wants NE to develop “a legal system for regulating and monitoring the killing of birds”. And it’s taking the first step towards this by seeking a judicial review.

Public support

By the morning of 19 March, more than 900 donors had pledged over £27,000. And comments left on the crowdfunding page show why people have been so generous.

John, for example, said general licences need to be challenged because he believes they are “often abused”:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

John, who pledged £25 to Wild Justice's crowdfunding campaign

Catherine said she pledged because she’s “appalled that innocent birds are casually being killed”:

Catherine, who pledged £10 to Wild Justice's crowdfunding campaign

And Sanjay wants his donation to help “younger generations… see these beautiful birds for years to come”:

Sanjay, who pledged £10 to Wild Justice's crowdfunding campaign

These comments are just three of hundreds that display a desire for wild birds across England and the UK to receive more humane treatment. As Lush media producer Charlie Moores said, Wild Justice has clearly “struck a chord” with its first campaign.


Public outcry over the practice of ‘netting’ also shows a growing concern about the treatment of birds.

On 28 February, Partner Construction’s placement of nets over hedges in Winterton, Lincolnshire, where the company sought planning permission, went viral on social media:

It caught the attention of celebrities like Packham, as well as the national media. Opponents of the practice described it as a “wildlife trap” and an “unnecessary attack on the natural world”. They highlighted its particular impact on birds, with one video showing birds trapped inside the netting. Partner Construction confirmed the netting was to prevent birds from nesting, saying it:

is a common practice… and the aim is to ensure birds find somewhere else safe and secure to nest.

On 4 March, GrimsbyLive reported that Partner Construction removed the netting after it was allegedly tampered with. But by this point, the public had begun calling out the practice elsewhere in the UK. Outrage grew at netting on hedges near Nottingham, in Chester, and just outside of Worcester, as well as on trees near Guildford:

Campaigners even started a petition to make netting a “criminal offence”.

A Tesco store in Norwich also faced criticism. The supermarket had installed nets to stop swallows nesting in outdoor rafters. Tesco told the Eastern Daily Press that it followed “advice from experts” to “address health and safety concerns” over droppings on trolleys. It also said that space had been cleared for swallows at the back of the building. But bird experts pointed out this wouldn’t work because swallows return to the same spot every year. Then, after huge public pressure, the store “temporarily” removed the netting.

We can change this

Public reaction to the treatment of birds has displayed a growing awareness of the problems that they experience at the hands of humans. On the one hand, many are rightly horrified at the arbitrary killing of common (and not-so-common) species. On the other, disrupting birds’ homes just so we can build more for ourselves has also incensed people.

This cresting wave of attention has no doubt played a big role in the success of Wild Justice’s fundraiser. And the group’s public engagement shows that the movement reflects much wider public opinion. Crucially, it opens the door to seriously confronting issues that previously had remained under the radar.

Grouse shooting and raptor persecution have been banner causes for many years. But now, efforts by Wild Justice and other campaigners have raised awareness that human behaviour threatens even much-loved species such as jays and swallows. And they show we all have the power to change that.

Featured image via Geograph – Mick Lobb / Wikimedia – Graham Racher

Support us and go ad-free

Get involved

  • Donate to Wild Justice’s crowdfunder and visit the group’s website.
  • Sign the petition to make netting illegal.

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us